Home > Featured > Goucher Mourns the Death of Former President Rhoda Dorsey

Goucher Mourns the Death of Former President Rhoda Dorsey

Former Goucher College President Rhoda Dorsey is introduced during the Goucher Athletics 2014 Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Goucher College, Friday, April 25, 2014.

Former Goucher College President Rhoda M. Dorsey is introduced April 25 at the Goucher Athletics Hall of Fame induction ceremony during Alumnae/i Weekend.

Goucher will celebrate the life of
Rhoda M. Dorsey on 6/16 at 11 a.m.
in Kraushaar Auditorium.

Rhoda M. Dorsey, the eighth president of Goucher College and the first woman to hold that post, passed away recently in her apartment at the Broadmead retirement community in Cockeysville, Maryland.

“For four decades Rhoda educated and inspired thousands of students,” said President Sanford J. Ungar. “I greatly admired her example of leadership and her commitment to making Goucher College a paragon of higher education, even when it meant making tough decisions. She will be sorely missed. It is a sad day for Goucher.”

Dr. Dorsey joined the Goucher faculty in 1954 as an assistant professor of history. She became academic dean of the college in 1968 and was named acting president in 1973. She took on the job permanently on April 15, 1974, and served for 20 more years until retiring in 1994. During her tenure as president, Dr. Dorsey oversaw the planning and celebration of the college’s centennial celebration in 1984/1985, as well as the transition to co-education in 1986.

Rhoda Dorsey earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Smith College and won a Fulbright Fellowship to attend Newnham College in Cambridge, England, where she earned a second BA and a master’s degree. She went on to receive a doctorate in history from the University of Minnesota.

She served on a number of business and educational boards and committees, and she was a delegate to the U.N. Decade for Women Conference in Kenya in 1985. Dr. Dorsey published extensively and was a strong voice in support of women’s education and the liberal arts. In 1987 she was named one of the 100 most effective college and university presidents in the United States, based on survey responses by college presidents, administrators, scholars, and foundation officers.

Often called “the protector of Goucher’s legacy,” in recent years Dr. Dorsey spearheaded the effort to establish an Athletics Hall of Fame, served on the college’s Committee of Visitors, volunteered in its archives, and was active in reunion events and programming.

Dr. Dorsey leaves a sister, Frances Dorsey Cobb, of Hartford, Connecticut. Information is not yet available about plans for a funeral or services in her memory. Goucher will hold an observance of her life and work in the near future. In the meantime, if you have memories of Rhoda you would like to share, please add them to the comments section below or email alumnionline@goucher.edu. We plan to compile and share them as part of a commemorative page in the future.


  1. Wesley H. Poling

    One of my great privileges while serving Goucher was to travel with President Dorsey to meet with alumnae and alumni across the US. She provided wonderful and insightful leadership as she related to and interacted with our alumnae and alumni and with everyone connected to the College. She and I would annually travel to Florida for a week or so during the winter (as most college presidents do) to visit with alumnae and alumni there. I recall one year during the long drive between major Florida cities when Rhoda pulled our a pad of paper and, over the course of several hundred miles and much back and forth discussion, sketched out a long-range plan for the second phase of co-education at Goucher. Such was her capacity for broad and strategic thinking. It was my honor and pleasure to plan her travel during her last year as president. We sought to provide as many opportunities as we could for alumnae and alumni across the US to honor and thank her for her extraordinary leadership of Goucher, and for her to connect with and renew friendships with a great many Goucher alumnae and alumni. She was my mentor and I will miss her terribly. Wesley H. Poling, Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations, 1986-1994.